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Pioneers in Bloomers

Rob Hadgraft

ISBN: 9781915352323
Published 28/11/2022
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Women's sport is finally flourishing in Britain. But still largely unrecognised are the pioneering efforts of the Victorian era 'pedestriennes' who laid the foundations for modern woman to participate in professional sport. Dozens of these working-class women abandoned humdrum lives to become history's first professional sportswomen.

They bravely put personal safety and decorum aside to tackle astonishing walking contests of 1,000 miles or more, competing against each other or against the clock, chasing cash prizes to feed and clothe their families. Victorian society was shocked by their chutzpah. Several of the women became rich and famous, but many had a torrid time.

Huge crowds watched them trekking day and night. The public loved them, but the authorities wanted them banned. The walks were often riotous affairs that attracted gamblers, drinkers and rowdy behaviour, but it was the women themselves who would be lambasted in the press, condemned as immoral and despicable.

The controversy only intensified when they adopted the daring new 'bloomers' costume from America, but with hindsight it is clear they were actually pioneers for women's rights.